The joint bid by West Ham United and Newham council to occupy the Olympic stadium after the games has been cancelled by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), reports the BBC in something of a major scoop.
Since winning the race in February, the bid has been beset by problems, principally a legal challenge from Tottenham Hotspur (who fancy the ground themselves) and Leyton Orient (who see the move as an existential threat), and also an anonymous complaint to the European Commission. Due to these ongoing issues, and the very real possibility that the court challenges could stretch on for years, the OPLC has decided that the stadium should remain in public hands, with an anchor tenant leasing it for an annual rent of around £2 million.
A new tender will go out this week, and any interested party will have until January to submit their bid. This could mean that, ultimately, it is still West Ham who move in from 2014; but it also means that Tottenham, with a better financial platform than their Championship-dwelling neighbours, have the opportunity to put in a more robust application, although it's highly unlikely that the OPLC would accept their existing plan to demolish the stadium and re-build from the ground up, sans athletic track.
In some ways, the OPLC's decision makes sense: the legal imbroglio was threatening to undermine the bid to host the 2017 World Athletics Championship (the decision for which is made next month), while West Ham's finances aren't looking any less shonky than they have in recent months. Yet pressing the reset button on the entire process, particularly just months before the March 2012 deadline for planning permission to ensure that the new tenants can move in from 2014, looks risky. And there's the question of Newham's involvement: they were West Ham's joint bidder, agreed to loan the club £40 million to fund the conversion into a football ground and were fully committed to the potential that ownership of the stadium would bring. Will they remain in the running?
An official announcement is expected by the Government this afternoon. We'll update this post with any further developments.